Creating An Overseas Network: Distro Tips from Ska Brewing

​Exporting​ its packaged beers to 10 states in the US — as well as shipping to the UK, Ireland, Japan, and Sweden — Ska Brewing has experience making sure the best possible beer makes it to foreign soil.​

“We were always interested in overseas distribution and just met the right partner at the Boston CCB originally and then we crossed paths again in Chicago CCB and decided to make the move on selling beer in Sweden,” recalls Arlo Grammatica, Ska Brewing’s National & International Sales Manager. “We won a listing that was successful and we have been doing well there for the last eight years.”

In May​, during​ World Trade Day, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) gave Ska an honorable mention in the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Exporting.

Grammatica, who just celebrated 20 years at the company, shared with Brewer some insights to kickstarting an exporting program.

First of all, exporting can be profitable.

READ MORE: Focusing On Local While Eying Exporting

“We charge rates that make our margins as we do with any US distributor,” Grammatica said. “The importers add on the taxes and shipping. Our products are more expensive than someone local, but this is the case even in the US.

“Obviously, larger volumes help with shipping rates, but you also do not want the product to go out of code.”

When it comes to looking for an overseas distributor, Grammatica says they look for the same in all distributors as Ska does in the US.

“Do they have a good sales team, distribution footprint, and the right trucks,” he asked. Because payments can be tricky working with overseas importers, Ska will usually ask them to pay upfront for six months.

When it comes to figuring out a good market, Grammatica says to first gauge the country or area’s economy, along with expendable income and trends in that country.

“I hopefully can arrange a meeting to discuss terms and logistics with an importer,” he said. “The importers have a good insight on beers that are doing well and I find products we have that fit the profile.

“I also see if any other breweries are selling that area and what products they have. I then can make a good choice on what to send as introductory products. We sometimes send a few to see if they can hit.”

​There can be challenges, of course. But Grammatica has found ways to iron out those wrinkles. Shipping the beer is something that takes some maneuvering.​

​”We just call brokers and see who can get it done,” he said.

Ska also has Swedish cans made at Ball for Modus Hoperandi — its main seller in Sweden.

“Making sure the right cans get selected to be filled can be tricky, so we have slight color differences to help the guys out,” Grammatica said.

Date coding is a big deal and making sure the packaging crew uses Euro Date coding (Day/Month/Year) instead of American date coding can also be tricky.

“You always have to check label laws for any country. They can be very different,” he cautioned. “Sometimes we have to sticker them or make special labels for our labeler, which we do for France.”

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